Context: Rural communities tend to be underserved by medical services. Low access to medical services affects quality of life and may also affect settlement decisions. The use of telehealth has often been mentioned as an alternative way to provide health care services in remote, underserved areas. One prerequisite for successful delivery of health care by means of telehealth is the existence of positive attitudes toward telehealth solutions among the potential end beneficiaries. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes toward telehealth use among residents in a Danish rural area. Method: A representative sample from the island of Ærø (n=1000) was selected and attitudes toward two telehealth applications were examined by structured telephone interviews regarding: 1) video consultation between patient and specialist, and 2) transfer of work tasks from local hospital to hospital outside Denmark. Findings: As many as 58% did not like the idea of having a consultation with a specialist carried out by video consultation, whereas 26% did not like the idea of having their X-rays assessed by a hospital outside Denmark. The reluctance regarding both telehealth solutions was higher among older people and people with no education beyond primary school. Conclusions: As the rural population in Denmark, as well as in other countries, tends to be older and less educated than the national average, the introduction of telehealth services faces special challenges in rural areas.
Journal of Rural Health, 2008, Vol 24, Issue 3, p. 330-335